During my research I came across an article from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Bonney, Rick, et al)with a unique perspective on the problem. You can find it in the December 2009 edition of BioScience available here. It's a few years old but this group's experience operating the Project FeederWatch and Backyard Bird Count programs, as well as developing the useful eBird tool, means they speak from valuable experience. So I wanted their opinion, and your reactions to it, as I record my own observations.
A few key points include:
- Since most citizen scientists are amateur observers, design data collections that rely on basic skills that require little training.
- Simple, easy-to-explain projects are more popular with users. Although the questions can be scientifically complex the basic concepts should be understandable by an everyday person.
- Studies with a "large spatial or temporal scope" are best suited to citizen science since they take advantage of the wide number (and type) of users who may participate.
- Standardizing data collection criteria and techniques is vital to data quality when multiple participants are all supplying observations.
- Providing educational opportunities keep users interested, as well as "certifications" for successfully completing any required training (no matter how minimal).
- Make study results AND study data available to the public. If you ask people to collect data they should be trusted to view and analyze it themselves.
- Disseminating results broadly and publicly helps demonstrate the importance of participation and encourages people to continue volunteering to help your project.
Thank you (in advance) for the assistance, and I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
FOR MORE ON THIS SERIES:
- Week 1: Researching the Keys to Successful Citizen Science Projects
- Week 2: Benefit the User
- Week 3: Engage the User
- Week 4: Trust the User
- Week 5: Keep it Simple
- Week 6: Case Studies
- Week 7: Connecting it All Together
Stay tuned each week for more on this subject. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates.